Supplement Censorship Undermines COVID Fight

New science says supplements can help with COVID-19, but the feds say you’re not allowed to learn about it. Action Alert!

Stunning new studies demonstrate how supplements can improve COVID-19 outcomes. This adds to existing research on a variety of natural compounds showing the plausibility of using supplements to prevent or treat COVID-19. Yet, as we’ve been saying for some time, federal rules prevent Americans from taking advantage of these beneficial products. Help us fight for reforms that allow the free flow of information about supplements.

Take quercetin, for example. Reviewers have noted that quercetin is one of the best-studied flavonoids with health-promoting effects such as antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, as well as being cardiovascular protective. Quercetin has been found to reduce the release of inflammatory cytokines which are associated with the most severe COVID cases. It has been shown to inhibit viral replication of HIV and is known to inhibit enzymes that are components of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Other studies have found that quercetin can block the entry of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into host cells. In an open-label study, COVID outpatients receiving quercetin supplements were significantly less likely to require hospitalization than those who did not receive quercetin supplements. Among patients who required hospitalization, stays were shorter if they received quercetin. Quercetin supplementation also reduced the need for oxygen therapy. Other studies have found positive effects for quercetin and COVID outcomes.

New clinical trials have also found benefits for arginine, an amino acid. A randomized, double-blinded prospective trial was conducted on arginine and COVID-19. The trial found that adding arginine supplementation to the regimen of patients with severe COVID-19 significantly reduced the length of time patients spent in the hospital and reduced the need for respiratory support.

There is also new information on zinc. A new study found that zinc supplementation might help stave off the symptoms of respiratory tract infections (like COVID, the common cold, the flu, and pneumonia) and cut illness duration.

What is the government doing with this information? A recently updated research review put together by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) called Dietary Supplements in the Time of COVID includes over 400 references, many of which speak to the benefits of these products for COVID outcomes. Yet NIH’s conclusion is “Data are insufficient to support recommendations for or against the use of [supplements] to prevent or treat COVID-19.” This position stubbornly sticks to the government line dictating that only drugs can claim to prevent or treat a disease, even when the science tells us that some supplements can, too.

Currently, the only FDA-approved therapy for COVID-19 other than the vaccines is remdesivir for patients who are sick enough to need hospitalization. One clinical trial on the drug found that remdesivir shortened hospital stays by five days. Another study found that remdesivir recipients had a shorter time to clinical improvement than the placebo group, but it was a median of five days versus a median of seven days. The government’s studyof remdesivir found the drug had an extremely modest benefit, with an 8% mortality rate for the study group on the drug versus an 11.6% mortality rate for the placebo group. But another recent study found that remdesivir treatment was not associated with improved survival but was associated with longer hospital stay. Remdesivir costs approximately $3,120 per patient.

So, according to the FDA, no supplements can be recommended for COVID-19—doctors can’t even talk about the benefits of supplements for COVID without risking sanction from the federal government—yet the FDA has approved a drug with modest (at best) results that have not been consistently confirmed in studies. Something is deeply wrong with this picture.

Part of the problem is that, to gain FDA approval and make disease claims, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) would need to be conducted on supplements, as is required for new-to-nature drugs. But these studies are incredibly expensive, costing millions of dollars. As a doctor reporting on the arginine trial mentioned above noted, “there’s not a lot of money to be made studying supplements.” Drug companies can afford these trials because drugs are patentable; most supplements, being natural, cannot be strongly patented, so the cost of conducting these trials cannot be recouped by supplement companies. Then the establishment, like NIH, claims that the absence of clinical trials on vitamins means we don’t really know whether they work.

It’s time to take this out of the government’s hands and to let consumers decide. We’ve been pushing for legislation that allows the free flow of information about dietary supplements by allowing supplements to cite reputable, peer-reviewed research about their benefits. This will help Americans to learn that there are more options for them to support their health outside of pharmaceutical drugs.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them to support legislation that allows the free flow of information about supplements. Please send your message immediately.